This article explains when and how grandparents in Louisiana can request court-ordered visitation with their grandchildren after divorce, separation, one parent's death, or other life-altering changes.
When can I ask for Court-ordered Visitation With My Grandchildren?
In Louisiana, grandparents have a legal right to ask for reasonable visitation with their grandchildren after the parents divorce, physically separate for at least six months, or following one parent's death. Only biological grandparents can exercise this right.
If your grandchild's parents are still married—or in a relationship and living together—you may be able to request court-ordered time with the child as a non-parent relative if "extraordinary circumstances" exist, which could include:
Any non-parent related to a child by blood or marriage–including step-grandparents–can ask for court-ordered time based on one of these "extraordinary circumstances," but only biological grandparents have a legal right to visitation with their grandchild after divorce, separation, or one parent's death.
What Must I Prove in Court?
The grandparent or non-parent relative asking for visitation has the "burden of proof" (the duty to provide sufficient evidence) to show a legal right to court-ordered time and that the proposed visits are in the child's best interests.
First, you must establish your relationship with the child and the legal grounds for your request—divorce, physical separation, one parent's death, or other "extraordinary circumstances." If your grandchild's parents were married when the child was born, your biological relationship will be presumed automatically. If your grandchild was born out of wedlock, you must prove a biological connection through a blood test.
Next, you will need to show that spending time with you is in the child's best interest, considering:
Before making a decision, the judge must consider appointing an attorney for the child if:
Judges give great weight to parents' preferences regarding who gets to visit their children, unless the parents are deemed unfit for any of the following reasons:
And if one parent has sole custody, any proposed visitation schedule must not interfere with the other parent's time.
Can I Request Custody of My Grandchild?
Louisiana courts automatically presume that custody with the natural parents is in a child's best interests unless sufficient evidence warrants custody with a non-parent. Any non-parent—including a grandparent—can overcome this legal presumption by proving custody with the parents would be detrimental to the child.
Once a non-parent demonstrates a natural parent is unsuitable for custody, the court will consider a range of factors to determine the custody arrangement that serves the child's best interests, including but not limited to:
Are My Grandparent Visitation Rights Terminated If My Grandchild Is Adopted?
Adoption transfers all legal rights from a child's biological parents and relatives to the adoptive parents and family. If a stepparent adopts your grandchild after one parent's death, your grandparent visitation rights will be transferred to the adoptive grandparents, unless your child is the deceased parent and/or you had visitation before the adoption.
For example, if you're a paternal grandparent, and your grandchild's father dies, you can exercise limited visitation rights after the mother's new husband adopts the child if you demonstrate it's in the child's best interest to maintain a connection with you. However, the court may allow the child's surviving parent and stepparent to impose certain restrictions on your visitation schedule.
Similarly, you can exercise limited visitation rights if the surviving parent or stepparent has interfered with a previously ordered schedule and you can prove it is in the child's best interest to continue spending time with you.
How do I Start the Process?
You must file a "petition," (formal written request) in the court making custody and visitation orders regarding your grandchild, or in the adoption court that handled the child's adoption. Once you file the petition, you must formally notify everyone involved.
In your petition, you will describe your proposed schedule for court-ordered visits. If you already have a visitation order, but you want more time or the child's parent is interfering, you can ask the court to "modify" (change) it or enforce the order.
If you have questions about your right to spend time with your grandchild, you should speak to a local, experienced family law attorney, who can help you navigate this process.